Being healthy doesn’t mean you have to go to great lengths. In fact, just a few simple changes to the routines surrounding your meals, can have significant benefits.
Before you cook
Make a plan – Figure out what you’ll make for the week, see what’s on sale and what’s in season. Make a list and stick to it. By purchasing just the things you’ll need, you’ll save money, reduce random grazing, avoid extra trips to the store, and reduce waste.
Marinate your meats - To add extra flavor to your meats up front, use a marinade for your meats. With some, you can even freeze your meats in the marinade to thaw and use later.
Use the right tools – A typical pan requires a lot of oiling, which can mean a lot more calories and fat added to your meal. Instead, use a nonstick pan to lower the amount of oil you use. You can even use water or broth to further reduce your oil.
When you cook
Have a fruit appetizer – In a small study published in Appetite, researchers found that consuming fruit before a meal can reduce the amount of total calories consumed at that meal. So go ahead and eat a few slices of apple or orange while you cook.
Drain the fat – Add one extra step to your cooking when browning meat – drain it. In this below picture, you see that from 1 pound of 85/15 ground beef, I drained off almost 1/2 cup of oil – that’s almost 1,000 calories!
Add flavor, not salt – According to research from the University of California, San Francisco, study participants who ate a high-sodium diet gained about one extra pound (over a five-day period) than those who ate low-sodium versions of the same high-calorie meals. The researchers believe excess sodium increases the body’s production of insulin. Use hot sauce, spices, herbs, salsa – anything other than salt.
Mix in the veggies – If it’s hard to get in enough vegetables, or they seem to get left on the plate – try mixing them into the dish. A study conducted at Penn State found that people who ate meals that incorporated vegetables — like casseroles or soups — consumed 350 fewer calories a day than those who had veggies only as a side dish. Try mixing vegetables into casseroles or even marinara sauce (for pasta and pizza) to get veggies into every bite!
Package up leftovers – Before you sit down to eat, package up whatever is leftover. This way you’ll have tomorrow’s lunch planned and you’ll be less likely to go for seconds.
Use healthy condiment subs – try these substitutes with your meals:
- pico de gallo – it’s good on just about anything!
- plain non-fat Greek yogurt – instead of sour cream or mayo
- lemon, red wine vinegar, salsa, or cottage cheese – instead of salad dressing
When you eat
Have a first course – Start your meal off with a low-calorie, low sodium soup or salad – these will fill you up with fiber and water and help you eat less of the main dish.
Ban screens – Eating in front of the TV, a computer, or your phone, typically leads to mindless eating. Instead sit down at the table with your family, a friend, or enjoy some quiet time alone and focus on your food and your body.
Use small plates – Yep, you’ve probably heard this before. Try it! Use a 9 inch plate, don’t go much smaller or else you may find yourself still hungry.
After you eat
Go for a stroll – Various research studies have shown that walks after meals can improve digestion and lower glucose levels in people with or without diabetes.
Mandy Seay is a registered and licensed dietitian. She works as a nutrition consultant in Austin, Texas specializing in diabetes, weight loss, lipid control and preventative nutrition. For more health articles and nutrition information, check out Mandy’s website Nutritionistics.